"Deviance is not a legal problem; it is a social problem."
This is the view of acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Freundel Stuart, who delivered the feature address recently at the Probation Department’s Official Launch of Programmes for 2009 and Beyond, at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church.
According to Mr. Stuart, social and economic advancements in Barbados have done little to alleviate deviant behaviour, because some of the problems besetting the region in earlier times are still prevalent today.
He said: "You would have thought that with expanded educational opportunities, access to better housing, the manifestation of better modes of transport and on the whole, a more enlightened view of social and economic development, that you would be reducing the number of persons with whom the courts and criminal justice system have to deal."
However, the minister contended: "What is happening is the reverse, we’re increasing the numbers and the facile explanation is that we are developing, so we have to expect these things."
Mr. Stuart also challenged the notion of "development", by revealing that the distinction between modernising and developing has often been blurred.
He pointed out: "You are not really developing if you are not expanding your capacity to respond to diverse types of problems."
"This is why so much additional pressure has been placed on the probation departments, as it has to deal with many more problems today than it did forty years ago."
Although the then acting Prime Minister was not seeking to absolve other institutions of their responsibilities, he stated that misconceptions within the educational system were also blatant contributors to the onslaught of social deviance.
Mr. Stuart stressed: "The heresy that you go to school and get educated because you are being prepared for the job market, is a horrendous and monstrous pervasion of common sense and should be resisted by the society as soon as possible."
According to him, this in itself will lead to other problems, by creating a system that accentuates competition, rather than co-operation between students.
The acting Prime Minister also revealed: "Wherever you have competition between people, they are bound to be winners and they are bound to be losers. The winners are always very few and the losers are very many."??????????????
As a consequence, Mr. Stuart maintained that individuals who fall outside the initiative of the educational system, are not the perpetuators of the criminal justice system, but rather its victims.
He cautioned: "Until we return to first principles and examine what we are doing and why, we are not going to be able to make things better for offenders, people who work in the probation department or in any other social agencies that try to assist in maintaining law and order in this society."
Speaking about the important role of the Probation Department, Mr. Stuart noted that in spite of day to day challenges and an expanded scope of responsibilities, it took the initiative and launched a series of programmes dedicated to the rehabilitation of offenders.
The acting Prime Minister lauded the exemplary effort made by the organisation, stating: "The department works under crippling conditions. They are grossly under staffed and under resourced. The launch of these programmes is a tribute to their patriotism, to their love of country and their commitment to the job that they are doing."
Mr. Stuart further said that "he would do everything in his power to ensure that conditions are improved and enriched" in that agency.
Programmes 2009 and Beyond will comprise a total of six incentives, entitled: Girls’ Circle, Tomorrow’s Leaders, Parenting, As Man: Confronting the Challenges and Responsibilities of Manhood, Community Outreach and Community Service.